Classified FISA Abuse Memo May Kill Media’s Trump-Russia Collusion Narrative

The document is 'pretty bad,' House Intel source tells LifeZette about secret report on Obama-era surveillance abuses

by Jim Stinson | Updated 20 Jan 2018 at 8:36 PM

It sounds too good to be true: A top-secret memo in the possession of the House Intelligence Committee could seriously rupture special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The memo doesn’t really have much to do with Russia, however — just as many of Mueller’s Republican targets also have nothing to do with Russia.

Instead, the memo reportedly details abuses of the FISA process and attempts to target Republican Donald Trump during the 2016 election. It's unclear as to why Trump was targeted by FISA warrants. Was it because the Obama administration thought he had ties to Russian actors, or did it just want to sabotage his candidacy?

For clarity: FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that allows surveillance of foreign actors and powers. Somehow, Trump and his associates got caught up in FISA warrants, and some of the information was "unmasked." Unmasking is when officials take the unusual step of identifying Americans in FISA reports. Americans are supposed to be protected from FISA surveillance.

The memo was prepared by House Intelligence Committee majority staff based on documentation found in the panel's investigation of the conduct of the FBI and Justice Department during the campaign, transition, and first year of the Trump presidency.

With reporting on Thursday by Sara Carter, a Fox News contributor and investigative journalist, that the memo was a bombshell that could end the careers of some Justice Department officials, the drumbeat continued on Friday to declassify the document so that it can be read by the public.

The breathless fervor about the memo even led some conservatives, including Greg Gutfeld of Fox News, to wonder if the whole thing has been overhyped. After all, the memo is top secret and has yet to be declassified.

But a committee source who spoke only on condition of anonymity told LifeZette the memo is not overhyped and is in fact "pretty bad." Thus, it's little wonder the Democrats do not want to declassify the memo and make it available for public consumption.

The move is not unprecedented in the investigation. The Democrats favored making the congressional testimony of Fusion GPS CEO Glenn Simpson public, likely because they thought it would damage Trump.

Fusion GPS produced the so-called Trump dossier, an unsourced series of memos written by former British spy Christopher Steele that alleged Trump was under the influence of the Russian government.

Many House and Senate Republicans believe the dossier is untrue, and was only leaked to the media a year ago to damage the presidency of Donald Trump. They believe the memo, however, shows a true scandal, with the Obama administration using its FISA abilities to track Trump during the campaign and, allegedly, the transition. On Friday, social media were abuzz with posts to "release the memo."

And one leading House Republican took the floor on Friday to inform the public of what he thought of the memo.

"I am shocked to read what exactly has taken place," said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) after he read the memo in a confidential setting. "I would think it would never happen in a country that loves freedom and democracy."

So declassifying the memo, for now, is unlikely. The memo is all downside for the Democrats and their narrative of Trump-Russia collusion, the theory that the Trump campaign was knowingly aided by Russian hackers, according to the committee source.

The House Democrats also oppose releasing more Fusion GPS transcripts — particularly those of Fusion executives Thomas Catan and Peter Fritsch. The source told LifeZette the opposition is odd, as Simpson and Fritsch have said they want all transcripts released.

PoliZette White House writer Jim Stinson can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Donald Trump [1], [2], CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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